Catholics gear up for city-wide Lenten Mission
Catholics are encouraged to come together to renew and recharge their faith as the Archdiocese of Nassau hosts its first in-person city-wide Lenten Mission in the COVID era, under the theme “Walking Together in Faith and Gratitude”.
Archbishop Patrick Pinder; priests Kendrick Forbes, Glen Nixon, and David Cooper; and Deacon Eardley “Danny” Price have been tapped as Mission preachers.
“We hope Lent 2023 proves a time of spiritual renewal for you, your communities of faith and families,” according to Archdiocese of Nassau officials.
Inviting members of the faith to a deeper meditation or reflection on their Lenten journey is the main purpose of Mission.
It is a time of grace, a time of repentance, for change, and for becoming a renewed disciple.
The New Providence Lenten Mission will be held at Loyola Hall, Gladstone Road, February 27 to March 3 at 7 p.m. nightly.
Grand Bahama island-wide Lenten Mission will be held March 6-10, at Mary, Star of The Sea parish at 7 p.m. nightly.
In speaking to the theme of the Mission, Cooper said it was the church’s goal to tie in this year’s Mission with the 50th year of independence in The Bahamas. He said gratitude in the theme speaks to the anniversary celebration while they encourage the faithful through Mission to always come together.
The priest also said being a good disciple means walking in faith.
“So, we are walking together with faith and in gratitude because of God’s faithfulness for salvation and nationhood,” said Cooper.
As Mission is observed, Catholics will be in the midst to enter the 40-day Lenten season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, February 22-April 6.
Lent is a period of preparation to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection at Easter.
Cooper, in a previous message, said whatever the season of a person’s life during Lent, they are encouraged to persevere in faith, be attentive to prayer, and let God do what only He can do.
He encourages them before Lent starts to recreate or redefine a prayer corner in their house where the word of God is properly elevated and displayed, so that the law of the Lord becomes the “rudder” of their household, as the word of God would be where family members turn to when they hit rough patches in their lives.
“The word of God would be the motivation we would need to maneuver through this crazy world,” said Cooper. “It is perfect. It refreshes the soul. Whatever God says is trustworthy, and it gives a simple wisdom – God’s precepts are right and, if we accept them, they give us joy in our hearts.
“One thing we in this modern age can find fruitful when we spend time with sacred scripture is that we must see ourselves in the story. We must see the prophets of old speaking to us. We must see Jesus touching us, healing with us, sitting with us … in reality, not virtual reality, because now we have a personal investment in the spoken word.”
He encouraged people to get back to the practice and culture of spending time in God’s word and it being proclaimed, with nothing else mattering.
“We all have our moments of unfaithfulness, but now that you are alive, and still able to hear God’s word, and still able to relate and identify with it, this is not a day for weeping – rejoice! He said go home, and cook a good meal, share your meal with those who have none, for today, going forward, rejoicing in the Lord should always be our strength.”
Cooper said he knew many people question how to make their circumstances joyful even though they are sometimes painful. And he said the saints of old plainly say whatever the season of their lives, to find Jesus in it, bring him in, and allow him to stay with them through it.
“Sometimes, what we deem problematic inconveniences, could very well be the right hand of God acting in our lives,” he said. “Therefore, all we have to do is persevere in faith, be attentive to prayer, and let God do what only God can do.”
He also encouraged them to try to remove themselves from church tension and to remember that the natural identifying principle is baptism. That they don’t necessarily have to connect physically, but that they must spiritually. Cooper said that is where the unity begins and ends.
The priest made an example of baptisms – many today of which are over-the-top extravagant – which he compared to baptisms in the “old days” when the baby was baptized naked – he reminded that the grace of the sacrament was still equally awarded and that the faith of the moment was still celebrated.
“There is more to our existence than what meets the eye, so it does not matter what people say to you or about you, we carry in us an indelible mark, an unerasable mark, an imprint, a Christian character that God alone gives us, and God alone can take it away. And no circumstance of life can devalue it. That’s why we strengthen ourselves by allowing ourselves to be influenced most and singularly with the law of God, with the word of God, with the gospel of Jesus the Christ. We refresh ourselves at the beginning of each day, at the close of each day. In this communal setting, we allow ourselves to be the word made flesh.”
Cooper also reminded worshipers that they are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it, according to the Apostle Paul. And that no member of the body of believers can ever feel less important than the other. He said those people who feel that way belong to the Body of Christ more than those who have overconfidence in membership.
“Those who are weaker, those who are less honorable, we are to surround with greater honor. Those who are less presentable must be treated with greater propriety; they must be felt to believe they belong to us more. These are the very people who Jesus spent most of his time ministering to because he didn’t hang out with the Scribes and Pharisees and the religious authorities; they plotted against him. He refused to be a member of the religious country club. He wanted to be an outsider – that’s why he was born in a manger, surrounded by animals, first revealed to shepherds. Strangers came to worship him, to let us see that those whom society might right off, these are the very ones whom Jesus seeks day in and day out.”
The priest encouraged people to find themselves re-engaged in the work of building the kingdom of Heaven on Earth.
He encouraged people going forward to bring back the culture of people who say they are sons and daughters of God’s kingdom to become more familiar with the word of God and reminded them that God’s word is perfect.
“God’s word for God’s people is the only foundation we need to stand on, no matter how much the tempest rages, no matter how many enemies size us up and surround us,” said Cooper. “We shall not be moved. On Christ the solid rock we stand. All other ground is sinking sand.”